Chihuly Sanctuary in Omaha

One of my all-time favorite artists is Dale Chihuly, who creates large-scale, blown-glass installations which are light, and colorful, and soaring, hopeful things. Even if you haven’t heard the name, I’m sure you’ve seen the work.

And last week, the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center opened in Omaha, bringing with it the Chihuly Sanctuary and the Chihuly Atrium. I’ve been waiting for this for a couple of years. I’ve been waiting for this since I first heard there was going to be a Chihuly installation, and since I first saw bulldozers leveling the ground for the building.

Because, of course, when you hear there’s going to be a new blown-glass installation, you have to go watch the bulldozers. It’s just one of those things. So, I did that.

I didn’t take any pictures of the bulldozers, but I did take pictures of the Chihuly art. Today, they let me inside the building.

Honest, I am capable of taking a better picture than this, but this  first one was through a plate glass window.

It’s a little hard to be sure, but I think these are about two storeys tall. You can see the tops about even with fourth floor, and I took these pictures on second floor.

The comment from the nurse we happened to run into on the elevator? “I like the picture of the cows. That one’s really my favorite.”  (I did not take a picture of the picture of the cows.)

It could be that I’m in the middle of writing a query letter, and a lot of my friends are out there querying or facing some other form of rejection, but that seems relevant, somehow.

Rejection: You can be a world renown artist, making $11.2 million dollars worth of blown glass in a building that was designed for it, and some days… well, the nurse just likes the picture of the cows.

I did take a picture of my sandwich, though. Just in case you happen to be hungry or something. Different kind of art here.

That’s a real-live King Kong gyro, or at least, it was, until it met its untimely demise in my stomach. King Kong is a local business that was started by a Greek immigrant (probably before I was born) and they hire mostly other immigrants (not just Greeks) I think as a matter of principle. So, you get your sandwich, you get your salad, you get your fresh baklava… and you get the sheer joy of watching the nice Georgian (The Georgia in Europe, BTW) boy ask your somewhat squeamish mother if she wants her steak “wit blud.”

He means rare, of course, and as it turns out, she does. King Kong apparently makes a very good, very, very rare steak. **keeps eyes on fully cooked gyro.**

Gearing Up For Competitive Blurb Reading Season

I’m not writing my query letter yet. I’m still looking at examples from our forerunners, and looking for something (anything) that includes a vital piece of backstory. Yes. Exactly. My novel is the exception to the “no backstory” rule. At least, I think it is. There’s one glittering hunk of backstory you can’t understand the inciting incident without.

Yes, I know there are whole writers’ groups full of writers’ rule exceptions. But me… I’m the real deal.

Shut up.

So, I’m in the process of reading blurbs on the backs of books, or movies, or you know… tattooed on performance artists. Whatever. Trying to get a grasp on what other people are doing, and what works (backstory!) And what doesn’t, and why.

I’m not there, yet, but I’m working on it.

So, while  shopping for movies doing intense, and detailed research, today, I ran into one that was largely cliche, and which made me smirk just a little.  Let’s make sure I get this right. Snazzy relationship ends after she disappears without a trace. Very next sentence? He follows her “trail.” I’m pretty sure a “trail” is a pretty large “trace”.

Fortunately, it’s a movie, not a book, so with the right number of explosions, I could forget all about that, and be happy.

But I probably have less wiggle room as a writer.

Back to the great backstory hunt.

Reading, Writing, and Television Documentaries

I’m finally sitting down to finish reading the Doomsday Book, and it appears that I’ve saved all the most depressing bits for last. **sigh** Well, I guess I shoulda figured it out back at the beginning, when I found a quote from the author that suggested that all time-travel stories are inherently sad, because you’re dealing with characters who have long since died.

Let’s see if I can keep up here. I took a break from my Hugo/Nebula list to read Sandman, an now I’m taking a break from Sandman to read the Hugo/Nebula list. Oh. And some quick peeks at the book I was given at the writers’ conference. Because, hey, free books.

Ideally, I would like to have my own book finished before the people I met at the writers’ conference forget who I am.  So, I’ll just hop in a time machine, and go back to last week to mail the manuscript. I’m feeling incredibly forgettable, right now. And maybe, the truth of the matter is that the whole point is to be able to “jog” people’s memories later: “We met briefly at the Pike’s Peak Writers’ Conference. I did not throw up on you.”

Clearly, I need a more concrete timeline.

Right now, I’m working on organizing everything I have into one coherent document with a timetable attached. I think most of the scenes are written–or, at least, I can say they exist in real life–and just need to be polished.

And I watched a delightful–if somewhat mass-audience–documentary on syphilis today. It’s amazing the things that are just sitting there, waiting for you to find them on YouTube. I learned that there is a non-lethal, airborne version of the disease, and also that John Deere tractors are sold in England.

To the best of my knowledge, there are neither John Deere tractors nor venereal disease mentioned in my novel. Perhaps I should add a postscript.

 

New Year’s Resolution #3: Get Involved

Resolution #3 is to take the time and energy to be actively involved with my creative communities. I’m a little hit-and-miss on that one. It’s hard to find my local creative community, and being quite honest, a little harder to find common ground with them. Well, I’m taking the effort. Will track them down. Will take brownies and chips. We’ll see what happens.

I’m a little better with online communities, at least in part because I can cherry pick the parts I like. No one on the internet has ever asked me to help them move, for instance. And finding people who are working on the same challenges I am is sooo much easier.

So, I’m working with some groups to get to where I want to be.

I’m taking on the 52 Week Writing Challenge (Found it on Medium.)in 2017. The challenge is to write one something every week for a year. There’s no specific something it has to be, but something. A poem or a book chapter every week. I’ve already talked about my desire to write and publish more short stories, so **surprise** I’m going to commit to writing one short story every week in 2017.

Fifty-two short stories. That means four for the A-to-Z Challenge in April, and four for the StoryTime Blog Hop. Probably one or two for my blog during the Holidays. That leaves forty-two that I can submit to magazines or contests. Which, all said and done, would probably do wonders for my career.

I’m going to hold off on committing to NaNoWriMo until closer to the date. I might be ready for a new project on November 1st and I might not.

As always, I’ll be jabbering away at the Holly’s Writing Classes Forums… Which are really one of the most supportive and stable writers’ forums I’ve come across. And keeping up with this blog (which may or may not be less solipsistic in the future. Prob’ly not.)

And I will be jumping back into my revision with both feet in the new year. Hoping to start annoying agents–and eventually, the unsuspecting public–with my work as soon as possible.

So, what challenges are you taking on for 2017? What are the best communities to push you forward? What’s made you a better writer?

Ha! I’m not the only one who collects rejections.

I’m working on the most perfect-est query letter in the world right now, and obviously, I’m hoping for success. I’m spelling things correctly, and even punctuating them. I’m also measuring out the exact right amount of glitter to go on the hand-drawn hopeful-unicorn’s wings. (Most guidelines suggest  3.27 grams. I don’t know why.)

In all seriousness, though, I fully expect to add to my rejection collection. It’s all just par for the course.

So, today I bring you this guy… who collects rejections recreationally. (Good looking, funny, and a tireless crusader for that ideal “burger refill.”)

Next Year Will Be Better

I’m thinking of getting myself a “next year will be better” gift. Something splashy that I wouldn’t ordinarily buy. I’m not all that good at splurging, so it took a little effort to convince myself that new shoes and underwear aren’t it.

I’m not looking for some static, shiny object to set on the table. I’m looking for an honest-to-mackerel things will get better, kick-start the progress, something I’ve never done before thing.

The really big things I’vedone for my writing career, so far, are Holly Lisle’s classes, How to Revise Your Novel, and How to Think Sideways. (Yes, and in that order. Long story.) They come with a built-in writing community, so well worth taking the leap, particularly if you happen to be like me. (Marooned hours from the nearest writing group IRL.)

There are plenty of writing books on my shelves, and while some of them are worth the money… I think I have enough, now.

So, I’m thinking in terms of an online-seminar, or… if I can find one that I want to go to close enough to home… a real-life writers’ conference/convention. (Very possible that I’m on the convention end of things.)

The further I get from home–and from places I can couch surf–the more expensive going to conferences gets. So, I’m looking, but I fully expect to wind up doing something on the internet. Which honestly, isn’t that much of a loss.

I like the internet. I love the idea of a place where ideas can exist independently of bodies, if that makes sense.

I’m finishing up a revision, and getting ready to get out there and start querying again. (Probably a ways off, but that’s more or less where I am.) So, I’m looking for something that fits in with that part of the cycle.

Not that I’m going to make up my mind until after the new year. I don’t want any 2016 touching my Thing.

Any suggestions?

Cramming Novels into Nutshells

I’ve been trying to hammer out the details of my query letter.

Which is a fairly diplomatic way of saying I’m trying to cram a hundred thousand years of intergalactic history and culture, a fairly complicated plot, and half a dozen characters–all of whom are more exciting than anyone I know in real life into about two-hundred-and-fifty words. And P.S.: Some of them are blue.

And yes, blue was probably relevant a hundred thousand words ago, back when it was still porn.

Okay. Yeah. I’ll probably leave that part out.

A friend of mine (she doesn’t write, but her minor does) does a pretty good impression of the querying writer. Do you want to represent me? No? How ’bout now? Okay… but what if I add dragon/chipmunk hybrids? No? What about–

I’ve been knocking my head against a wall trying to find just the right words to describe that one necessary piece of intergalactic culture for… well, almost as long as I’ve been writing the book to go with it.

And today–maybe it was that extra cup of coffee–I think I finally got it. I’m closer than before, anyway. I have something that kinda makes sense, and kinda fits.

It took a lot of time to coax that minimalist approach out of my verbose little brain.

So, obviously, the most difficult, most irreplaceable bit of writing I’ve done recently is scribbled across a crumpled scrap of paper in the bottom of my purse. **sigh** Time to dig it out and polish it.

Organizing Query Research–Part The First

Last night, I started working on my agent submissions list for the next novel. I was up a long time, just pulling together a list of names.

Well, a tidy little pile of names. “List” is probably not the right word for this. I have index cards. Lots and lots of index cards. And it’s probably not a complete list… er… pile, right now.

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Each card–right now–has the following information

  1. Agent’s name–One Agent Per card.
  2. Agency name–where this person works
  3. Genres–by which I mean, the genres they represent that I actually write actual full-length fiction in. It’s NOT a list of everything they represent.

And–at this exact moment–I’m focusing on #3 more than anything else. The goal is to find the agent who is the best fit for me, so I’m looking for the person who represents the highest percentage of my hard drive.

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There’s no separate pile for Sci Fi, and Thrillers, but not Fantasy. They’re in that top pile. Personal priorities, but I do think most of my stuff falls on the Sci-Fi side of that line. So, they’re weighted accordingly.

So, there you go. 100+ names triaged into manageable groups.

Here and there–I’m going to admit this up front–there are a few cards that are going to get bumped up a group or two. Most of them are people I’ve already had contact with and liked, and can see myself working well with. The teeny-tiny, fraction of one-percent are people who represent my favorite authors. So, yes, I’m weighting these on emotional considerations, also. Not unduly so, I hope.

So, what about you? Any strategies for organizing you’d like to share?